A man who stood up during intermission last night at the performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Hippodrome Theater downtown and shouted “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!” was escorted out of the building, and was permitted to walk away free after police made contact with him.
The incident, reported by The Sun late last night, happened during intermission for the play, which is based on Yiddish tale about a poor Jewish family facing persecution in Tsarist Russia in 1905. Baltimore Sun sports stringer Rich Scherr was there, and posted footage to social media of a tense crowd reacting to the incident. He told The Sun some fellow crowd members began running. He and others were anticipating gunshots.
Sick, sad world. A man stands at intermission of tonight’s performance of Fiddler in Baltimore and yells, “Heil Hitler,” along with pro-Trump references. pic.twitter.com/slDcPwF7re
— Rich Scherr (@writerguyRich) November 15, 2018
Det. Chakia Fennoy, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Police Department, told Baltimore Fishbowl this morning that officers responded to a disorderly conduct call at the theater Wednesday evening in relation to the anti-Semitic shouting.
Police made contact with the suspect, but he then “left the location without incident,” she said. “No arrest was made.”
Police identified the man on Thursday evening as Anthony Michael Derlunas, 59. The department blurred out his address in a police report released to the public, but court records matching Derlunas’ name and birthday indicate he lives in Joppa.
In the report, Officer Jake Aumack, one of the two officers who responded to the theater, wrote that Derlunas “began shouting” during the show, “causing a disturbance to other patrons.” Security asked him and a female companion who identified herself as his girlfriend to leave, and they complied, following security to the front entrance of the theater.
Derlunas told the officers he had been “drinking heavily throughout the night,” and his girlfriend told them he had not taken his regular medication that evening. Security told him that he was permanently banned from the venue, and the pair went back to their hotel room nearby.
Derlunas also received a “stop ticket,” which carries no fine or penalty, BPD Chief of Public Information Matt Jablow said in an email Thursday. Asked why police did not detain him, Jablow said, “As reprehensible as the man’s words were, they are considered protected speech/free speech because nobody was directly threatened.”
Aumack wrote that Derlunas told him “the final scene before intermission reminded him of his hatred for Donald Trump,” causing him to yell. Derlunas evidently didn’t understand he had offended others in the theater, as he told the officer “he didn’t realize there were so many Trump supporters.”
“It appeared to this officer based on my interview of Mr. Derlunas that his intention was to express his dislike for President Donald Trump,” Aumack wrote.
Others who were present say they don’t buy Derlunas’ defense. Jessica Krasnick, who was sitting in the audience, says she witnessed him make two “Nazi salutes” with his arm raised.
The outburst came a little over two weeks after a gunman with a history of anti-Semitic behavior online murdered 11 congregants and wounded seven others in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
The theater said in a statement this afternoon that security staff and ushers on Wednesday night “were able to remedy the situation and remove the offending audience member quickly, coordinating efforts with local police, who met the man as he was escorted out of the building.”
“The France-Merrick Performing Arts Center takes the security and safety of its subscribers and patrons seriously,” the theater said, noting its security team checks bags, screens guests using metal detectors and monitors cameras around the venue.
“We apologize to those patrons who were affected by this unfortunate incident. Our venue has a proud tradition of providing shared experiences to people from all walks of life, right in the heart of this wonderfully diverse city, and we intend to continue that tradition in the spirit of bringing people together, not dividing them.”
Amy Sacks, a longtime Hippodrome subscriber who regularly attends shows with her mother, 89, said she’s never been screened with a metal detector when attending shows there. It was only “a few years ago” that staff began checking her purse with a flashlight, she said.
She said she’s still planning to to the Hippodrome on Sunday with her mother to see “Fiddler on the Roof,” but she’s already on edge about it. Other anti-Semitic incidents have started similarly and ended with people dying or being hurt, she noted, pointing to the recent mass shooting in Pittsburgh.
“I’m just concerned and nervous,” said Sacks, who lives in Baltimore County. “I am aware of my surroundings, but you can only be so aware.”
The incident fell on the same day that a student at Goucher College in Towson discovered racist and anti-Semitic graffiti in a bathroom stall. In all, anti-Jewish incidents reported to police across Maryland climbed from 53 in 2016 to 78 in 2017, part of an a broader uptick in hate and bias incidents reported to police across the state.
This story has been updated.
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